A Glimmer of Eternity

Marks & Intention: How the complexity of relationships builds a whole.

Every mark made on a canvas is a trace of an intention, volition encoded. Beyond position and value they give clues to direction, velocity, color. No matter how loosely made few marks appear just to have “happened.” Of those, most fail to be recognizable, failing to cohere. Lacking a unity of perception.

Unity can be perceived in a myriad of ways: mimesis, caricature, metaphor, synesthesia. Every form of equivalence, every rhyme with our perceptions of the world, is available.

When a passage does achieve a rough equivalence to a perception it is only a fragment of an entire field lacking an overall coherence. It has nowhere to belong. Its internal connections – no matter how strong in themselves – will not maintain our attention. They cannot hold together within a wider incoherence. They are equivalent to  “voices” without “relationship.”

Marks that remain fossilized intentions halt our engagement. Marks can do more than merely signify intention. When we read form or find ourselves immersed in atmosphere bathed in light we confront the object/field of the canvas not merely as the product of an ego/will. We leave the realm of negotiation, entering  into dialogue. We enter into a relationship with the object/field of the canvas instead of remaining in negotiation with rhetoric. We are not waiting to be convinced. We find ourselves experiencing a world.

Every mark is the record of an intention. However, a work can transcend this.

We cannot talk about “techniques” or “strategies.” These may distract us, temporarily confusing us, fooling us into accepting intentions as if they were perceptions – for a while. In a work dominated by technique the artist and the viewer remain within a rhetorical negotiation. Deception prevents the artists from coming into dialogue with the developing object/field. This risks exposure of the “trick” and a loss of trust within the viewer. A painting cannot lie. That is to say, it can deceive, but all its tricks are there to be discovered. It is transparent to view. At some point its deception will fail to convince. This is how fashionable work dies.

Our partial, fleeting, untrustworthy perceptions, inextricably bound to expectation and intention, still allow us to be struck by a sense of an overwhelming veracity. This happens when we recognize a holographic quality shining through. We experience rhymes, crossing all of our avenues of perception. These carry significance. We perceive an order beyond intention and expectation. We trust this.

An object/field, can give us this recognition, carrying meta–signification within it. A recognition – not the result of having been convinced through argument, but from having felt the rhymes as deep and, continuing beyond the scales of our gaze. What is too small and too large to be seen is still felt as if it were there. A universe is available to us within the object/field before us.


Eternity is not forever. It is not all-of-time experienced in-a-row. It is an experience of time outside time’s dimension. An eternal view sees all-of-time at-once. As though looking down on its river, seeing its entire course in a single glance.

A painting is an object/field. Both a physical thing and a field of visual perception. Through this visual portal it provides access to all other perceptual fields. It can give us a glimpse at such a wider view.

No painting is of-an-instant. A painting accumulates over the time of its making.

It carries a series of elisions. These elisions – no painting can have all the detail we find within a direct perception – carry us across the gaps.

Much of the work of painting comes down to discovering – in what has occurred on the object/field, both intentionally and accidentally – an accumulation that bridges its own gaps. In much the same way that our imperfect perception heals over its gaps to create a conviction of totality in the world. In such a painting we are at once aware of elision and convinced of totality – at the same time.

The interplay of accumulated relationships inhabiting this object/field becomes a rhyme of its own. A rhyme with the world. A rhyme of the world. It holds entirety and eternity in a way that is available to our glance.

Unlike an image – a photograph, or any rhetorical visual work manufactured to fulfill an agenda – such a painting continually refreshes. It does not wear down our ability to perceive it by trapping us in a closed cycle of repetition. The eye does not meet barriers. Every intensity we discover is refreshed as the eye moves on. There is always a way out of over-stimulation. The eye finds paths. It can flow, finding and renewing patterns that are not exhausted. This visual engagement awakens our other senses. They are engaged vicariously, it is true, but also viscerally. Not via a rhetorical convention. We arrive at a direct engagement analogous to life. This is not some closed loop of a sensory apparatus. It is an engagement with our entire being through a visual portal. This engagement begins and speaks through a language of visual perception, but does not remain an exercise. As trust builds we can throw our selves entirely into the experience.

We experience such a painting.

We can return to it.

Each engagement is a new and direct experience. We are not short-circuited into narrow, conditioned responses.

Entirety, eternity, coherence, unconditional perception; these are all hard to come by. Some form of practice helps us recognize and experience these elusive, yet essential qualities. Without this, with no avenue within which we can experience these qualities directly, we remain lost in illusions. We are left powerless to notice, let alone confront them when they arrive rising out of the noise of our everyday conditioning.

Our experiences of painting, both in their making and viewing, provide an avenue that otherwise can be found only in flashes of insight or the grace of illumination.


A significant aspect of our relationship with painting is the intractability of the paradoxes they contain.

A canvas is an object out there before us.

It is also a field. A field carrying “action” within a visual medium.

This paradox is another form of painting’s holographic nature. It rhymes with totality. It is both partial and indirect while at the same time complete and viscerally griping.

A painting is in the world and it holds a world. At the same time, in the same place.

A place both object and field.

It exists in a time that passes as we look.

And, within a time that forever renews itself.

It shares with us a time that we are in.

Yet, it is also within a time we can glimpse in its totality.

Confronting a painting directly – sadly not in any reproduction – providing us with a glimpse of eternity.



Published by Antonio Dias

My work is centered on attending to the intersection of perception and creativity. Complexity cannot be reduced to any given certainty. Learning is Central: Sharing our gifts, Working together, Teaching and learning in reciprocity. Entering into shared Inquiry, Maintaining these practices as a way of life. Let’s work together to build practices, strengthen dialogue, and discover and develop community. Let me know how we might work together.

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